Phil Emery is on the precipice of accomplishing a rare on-the-fly rebuild for the Chicago Bears. The key is adding by talent instead of position in the NFL draft.
Shea McClellin taught a valuable lesson on favoring positional players
Bears fans got a front row seat for the pitfalls of choosing to target a specific position in the draft from the moment Emery took over in 2012. That year Chicago went into the draft with three key needs to fill on the team including pass rusher, offensive line and wide receiver. By that point Emery had already added Brandon Marshall, so receiver wasn’t a likely target, leaving offensive line and pass rusher as the two biggest preferences. Fast forward to when they picked at #19 the player they got caused a lot of head scratching. Shea McClellin was considered by scouts to be a fine athlete with good upside, but also a bad fit at defensive end in the Chicago Bears scheme under Lovie Smith given his size limitations. Through two seasons that prediction has come true as McClellin is hoping to salvage his career by shifting to linebacker. A look back says the Bears didn’t have to feel so pressed to get that pass rusher. A number of quality players were still on the board at that time including safety Harrison Smith, offensive tackle Riley Reiff, and linebacker Bobby Wagner. That doesn’t even include defensive end Chandler Jones who went a few picks later to the Patriots. The point is the Bears locked in on their guy and didn’t take the time to play the board. As of right now they’re paying the price.
C.J. Mosley and Darqueze Dennard represent ideal value picks
So looking ahead to the NFL draft, where are the biggest needs for the Chicago Bears. The majority would agree it’s a tossup between defensive tackle and safety. Current projections show there being a couple of quality talents available at the 14th pick in round one including Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Alabama free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. However, that doesn’t mean they’re the best picks available. Todd McShay at ESPN ranks Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley as the eighth best overall player in the entire draft. Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard holds a lead in several player rankings over Clinton-Dix and even his primary competition Justin Gilbert. Neither linebacker nor corner are considered primary needs, at least not yet. Charles Tillman is back to team with Tim Jennings at corner while Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams will join either McClellin or Jon Bostic to form what will look like an adequate linebacking group. Yet that changes nothing. It won’t change the fact Mosley and Dennard are two outstanding football players. It also won’t change the fact that Tillman, Jennings, Briggs and Williams are all over the age of 30.
Success in the NFL is not about filling immediate needs. It’s about loading up the roster with good players. History shows the more talent you have, the easier it is to win. The Chicago Bears must remember that when they go on the clock in May.